WE BLOW OUT A CANDLE FOR THE MAN IN BLACK
If he were still with us Johnny Cash would have turned 77 last Thursday, February 26. As it is, he's been gone almost six years. Yet he remains hauntingly present, floating inside American music like a demon-angel Principality, inspiring musicians and helping the rest of us make sense of it all. There's a level of unvarnished understanding, self-awareness and common man empathy in Cash's work that's staggering. As flatly enjoyable as so much of his catalog can be, it's the sitting-alone-in-quiet-hours stuff that settles Johnny in our hearts. The struggles and failures of his life, chronicled in songs that will live on long past him, are now part of mankind's tool kit for dealing with our own foibles, our own stumbling and missteps. There is also riotous pleasure in spots and no-good mischief, too. Few artists' body of work reflect such a fully shaped person, neither all good or all bad, and thus as true a portrait of a real man as one could hope to find. We miss you, Johnny. That, sir, is the God's honest truth.
Let's hop aboard one of the most famous trains any man ever built and see where it takes us.
He was rarely more lively than when he sang with his wife June Carter Cash. You try not to be charmed by this devil!
Cash performed behind bars multiple times, and it's hard to imagine a contemporary star doing the same. There's something fundamentally dangerous (and undeniably cool) about the setting, the lyrics and his delivery here.
His television show featured many luminaries including Louis Armstrong, who played on the original 1930 Jimmie Rodgers recording of "Blue Yodel No. 9," reprised here with Cash.
As the American Recordings series illustrates, Cash had a way of making other people's songs his own, never more so than his pal Kris Kristofferson's bleary, weary anthem.
He cuts quite the image at the Opry in 1962 on one of his signature tunes.
With all the Leonard Cohen buzz in the air it only seemed right to bring out this terrific, bruised rendition from Johnny.
The Man In Black really understood human weakness and frailty better than most, as evidenced by this heartbreaking take on Nick Lowe's brutal self-reflective killer.
What's not to love about this loosey-goosey version of "Polk Salad Annie" with Tony Joe White?
One of Cash's more memorable pairings was with a young Minnesota boy who thought the world of him. Here's the pair in the studio. They're both so young you just wanna pinch their cheeks!
Here's "Ghost Riders" at the Montreux Jazz Fest in 1994. Cool arrangement, same he uses with Willie Nelson on the excellent VH1 Storytellers album.
A guest spot on Colombo in 1974 finds Cash playing gospel-pop star Tommy Brown. This is priceless!
We conclude this remembrance with a snippet of Bob and Johnny duetting on a sadly appropriate number. Some folks you never get over missing.
And don't forget, you can eyeball video sweetness 24/7 with JamBase TV.